The time had come. On the path ahead of me, my son hiked, oblivious to the macabre events he would face that very day. He carried his heavy pack with ease, belying the long day’s journey. I admired his youthful vitality. He was on the verge of manhood, yet still a child in so many ways. I studied his form, savouring every detail with pride. This boy was destined for greatness. Bile rose in my throat and I spit it on the side of the trail. I straightened and looked ahead once more. The time had come.
“Wait up, Son,” I called, forcing some levity into my voice. “Your old man’s ready for a rest.”
He looked back at me, startled that I had fallen behind. He had probably been absorbed in the all-consuming task of hunting for interesting bugs and small critters. Do boys ever outgrow that fascination?
“Are you okay, Dad?” the boy asked as he approached.
“It’s been a long day, and it’s not over yet,” I answered, leaving much unsaid.
We dropped our packs in the dust and settled on the sparse grass. Our meal of dry bread, vegetables and warm water was scant, but still too much for my appetite. I swallowed enough mouthfuls to give me strength and willed the food to stay put.
We sat in silence, taking in the view. The camp where we’d left the rest of our group was barely visible in the distance, the smoke from their fire drifting up in a thin column, unhindered by any trace of wind. The sun hung high in the sky, daring us to survive. Silence surrounded us – no twitter of birdsong, no rustling of leaves, no animal movement in the brush. Just the silence of doom tormenting me, wringing my stomach, sucking away my next breath.
“Are you ready to go now, Dad?”
“Not just yet.” I pulled my legs around so I could face him directly. “God’s teaching me some things, Son, and now’s the time for me to tell you about it.” I stopped. How could I put this into words? How would I ever put it into action?
“God is teaching me about obedience.”
“Obedience? But you’ve always obeyed God. What more is there for you to learn?”
I exhaled, searching desperately for the words. “Everything God has asked me to do up to this point has been relatively easy. But obeying when it’s easy isn’t true obedience. That doesn’t bring me into a deeper relationship with the Lord, and it brings no great glory to Him. Obeying when it’s hard, when it costs you everything, is true obedience. That’s what I’m determined to do.”
“What are you talking about? What’s going to cost you everything?”
The innocence in his eyes, in his voice, broke my heart. My vision blurred and I had to look away. “Oh, my son. Do you know how much I love you?”
He gripped my hand. Such a gesture on my part would have earned me an embarrassed shrug a week ago. Today that simple touch showed his increasing maturity – and it compounded the fathomless depths of my pain. “You are the son of my old age, promised to me by God Almighty. God has other promises to fulfill through you, but first He has asked me to prove where my allegiance lies.” My voice broke and I could no longer contain my sobs. “Isaac, my dear child, God has asked me to give you back to Him.”
His eyes grew wide in sudden understanding. “The sacrifice. We didn’t bring a lamb. Dad, are you saying…?”
“Yes,” I choked out. “God wants me to offer you to Him. I don’t understand how, but I know He’s going to give you back to me. I must obey, no matter how hard.”
Before my eyes, my boy became a man. Still holding my hand, he stood and pulled me to my feet. His arms wrapped around my waist and held fast. I clutched his head to my chest and prayed that the moment would never have to end.
At long last, Isaac stepped away and lifted his pack to his shoulder. “I want to obey, too, Dad. God will provide. Let’s go. The time has come.”
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